Ed Kuepper

Today Wonder

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Originally released in 1990 and then re-released in 2002 with a solid remastering job and a slew of extra tracks from a Dutch radio session, Today Wonder in many ways was the release that helped determine part (if not all) of Ed Kuepper's future work. Specifically, it's the way around close, quiet, but still tense and strong performances, evident on such later releases as I Was a Mail Order Bridegroom. In the reissue, Kuepper notes how he and drummer Mark Dawson wanted to avoid "the usual 'doing the greatest hits acoustically' routine," and in a series of rehearsals for a tour start tried other approaches with newer songs or cover versions. Dawson himself plays a stripped-down set -- partially using a cardboard box -- while Kuepper uses a variety of unexpected tunings on his guitar, as well as using his familiar, rich voice. The end result's a beauty of a record, captured well on tape with just enough echo (Kuepper semi-jokingly calls the effect "ambient rockabilly," and certainly on songs like "Always the Woman Pays" it could be the Durutti Column at Sun Studios). One of Kuepper's all-time classics, "Everything I've Got Belongs to You," made its first bow here, the killer opening line, "I've designs on you that come from dirty books" still a winner, while an earlier sample of his brilliance, the Saints' "Eternally Yours," also takes a bow. Covers include Tim Hardin's "If I Were a Carpenter" and the title track, actually a medley with Donovan and the Animals adding to Kuepper's original, while self-penned highlights include "What You Don't Know," with a nervous, dramatic edge, and the gentler-paced but not-less-commanding "There's Nothing Natural." The radio-set extras add even more of a frenetic charge to the more commanding songs -- "Always the Woman Pays" practically leaps out at the listener and "Pretty Mary" isn't far behind.

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